Question on Ligeia : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

My undergraduate Literature class has been discussing what is arguably one of Poe's greatest masterpieces, Ligeia. We were examining the possibility that Ligiea, Rowena, neither or both are mere inventions of the "untrustworthy" narrator. The ambiguity here seems to be an asset to me. I know what I think and I would like to hear from others with well-informed opinions on the issue. My exam is tomorrow so I doubt any responses will come in time to help me there, but I am terribly curious just the same.

-- Anonymous, October 09, 2000



While I would not argue with anyone that Ligeia  is perhaps one of Poes greatest masterpieces, I would, at the least, question the perception that the narrator is of an untrustworthy nature. My interest is piqued because this is the second time I have read similar characterizations of one of Poes narrators. As for opinions, alas, I am in possession of many. However, I would not presume to judge the value of these convictions for anyone but myself. But then, as my literature teacher once said, An opinion unexpressed is an opinion unredressed.

One of the literary principles Poe believed in and consistently lived by was that an author should predetermine his objective, a singular effect that he wished to convey to the reader. Once determined, from the beginning to end of the tale, everything must be subservient to nurturing this singular effect. Generally speaking, Poe did not deviate from this principle.

From the introductory quote of Joseph Glanvill and the first sentence of the story, the narrator gently moves us to a belief in the supernatural qualities of Ligeia. His detailed description of her otherworldly beauty, her immense, superior intellect, her extraordinary passions and the awesome strength of her will, all converge to illustrate a woman with qualities that are clearly, superhuman. We read of her passing but not without a sense of her determination to return.

The assessment that the narrator is untrustworthy is an interesting view and one that cannot be argued from a perspective other than that of the assessor. If one chooses to disbelieve the narrator and sees Ligeia and Rowena as inventions of the narrators opium induced imagination, then, for him, the story is flawed from the very beginning and collapses into nonsense. He best close the book and deny himself the agony of finishing one of the finest literary fictions in print.

I would be most interested in your views, Gregory.

Warm Regards,

-- Anonymous, October 10, 2000

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